Allie X is the perfect blend of grunge and mainstream. Her sophomore release is the album I did not know I needed, but am so glad to have.
Definitely my favorite song off the album, “Paper Love” is a synth-pop powerhouse and rightfully deserves its spot as a single. It is characterized by its interesting and surprising tone switches as the strong electronic beat fades and reappears. The extended metaphor is genius, discussing how “that boy’s gonna rip me up” and how eventually “he’ll leave a nasty cut.” The song is brazenly confident and Allie X is pretty aware that this boy “ain’t that nice, he won’t do right,” and this whole relationship is pretty toxic. However, that confidence comes at the cost of insecurity, as she “cries until [she] just dissolves” and fears that her “heart [will] turn to pulp” to continue with the paper metaphor. Similar to Halsey’s new song “Lie,” Allie X is desperate to bend reality for this boy to love her, “praying it can’t, praying it don’t, praying it won’t come true” that he doesn’t actually love her and that the all the lies “his tongue told” didn’t actually happen. However, by the end of the song, it is clear Allie X is over him, realizing the damages of this “paper love” and vowing to move on.
Co-penned by Troye Sivan, his style clearly pokes through on “Vintage,” which is reminiscent of a Blue Neighborhood love story. I’ll be honest that the first time I listened to this song, it wasn’t my favorite, but it slowly grew on me. “Vintage” is so perfectly vain that it is relatable to us teenagers who crave that “classic image” and “glossy finish.” The song sets up an interesting contrast between a love that is “timeless,” yet “vintage.” The “moonlight” kisses and “late-night” drives it describes are nothing new to the romance genre, which is why the story is timeless. However in a digital age where everything is always changing, how we live is almost entirely different than how our parents lived. It is rare to find a love so pure and “so romantic” as the one described where the two are “dancing on the border” undistracted and in-sync, both wanting the love of the other to give them “peace of mind.” It reminds me of more classic romance movies, which I think is the desired effect. My favorite detail is when she sings “and my waistline on your fingers” because she has the control over the connection instead of the more typical version of “your fingers on me.”
As you probably guessed by the title, “Need You” is about the gnawing depression faced after an unexpected breakup. The lyrics hit deep right away with “sitting here with a fist full of ashes /
and a heart that I can’t even use” that highlights the codependence we often suffer from as we are unable to see ourselves without this person. Allie X is trying desperately to get better, reminding herself she is valuable all by herself “over and over and over / til [she] doesn’t need” her ex anymore. Alas, even though she really wants to get better, it isn’t always easy as she begins to “toss and turn” with those ashes and missing them “becomes second nature” because she has been doing it for so long. She “wishes she could erase” them but at the same time wants to hear their “calm” and “nirvana,” and be a part of the “fire” and “drama.” However, she ultimately decides and repeats that fuck no, she “doesn’t need” them any longer.
Amidst slow, painful love songs, “Casanova” sounds like a burst of positive vibrancy. But once I listened to the lyrics, I realized how drastically wrong that assumption was. This song is one of the darkest on the album as Allie X describes this “heavenly creature” with a devilish “agenda” to “fuck her over” and then leave her like a corpse “dying for their love.” Once again it seems this is the tale of a love gone oh-so-wrong, as the significant other once nicknamed “Casanova” for their passionate love is now nothing but a black hole. We see Allie X as truly vulnerable with a “hole in her heart” only the ungodly luck of a “Hail Mary” or “blue dice” could mend. The “wait for their love on the boulevard” is so painful and crippling it is similar to being a “seizure,” and the unholy things she does while waiting turned her from a “believer” (from back in “Paper Love”) to a “sinner.” The one saving grace is Allie X’s undaunted awareness: she realizes how twisted this relationship is and does not really try to romanticize it. Just like in “Paper Love” and in “Need You,” she is moving on singing “got to let you go.”
Reminiscent of Melanie Martinez, “Lifted” is an ode to all things teenage. From the lyrical “inhaling the helium” to the blunt “we get high up on the low down,” Allie X makes no hesitation in letting you know what this song is about. There are clear benefits of this recklessness with “leaving the shit below,” having “sunshine on our faces,” and living “super basic” without worries. They smoke “to forget” and to live “up here” where the “air is fresher” and there is no “pressure.” However, as Shakespeare once said, these violent delights have violent ends. All of their “troubles [stay] at their doors” the next morning, and the most grueling lyric is “I don’t make my mama proud.” It is a recurring theme that as teenagers, we are trying our best and searching for cheap thrills, but that no matter what we do, we still disappoint our parents. Allie X offers a solution to just not listen because “she is in the clouds,” and in many cases, shrugging off our parents’ negativity may be the healthiest way to handle the situation until we can go off the college or get a job to prove our success. Overall, “Lifted” is one of the best tracks from the album.
Starting off with a rather creepy wailing noise, Allie X breaks in with a Lana-like voice to share her struggle with behaving like society has taught her and not like how she actually wants to. Every day she is “making strange faces” and “sticking out [her] tongue” for selfies and photos, but she is miserable with that feigned happiness. She feels every day “is a step backwards” because she is putting her “hands on her head” like “a gun.” Similar to “Lifted,” she has “let [her dad] down,” but her sister seems to genuinely care and is “scared” for her. Allie X has lost her sense of healthy validation and is now toxically looking towards “Simon” and society to tell her she is the “best” and to dictate how she should act. She is mostly likely suffering from a mental illness (which potentially could be depression, anxiety, or body dysphoria), and it is causing the “pieces” of herself to be a “game,” a “puzzle,” and a “mystery.” She is obviously struggling because her “mind is weak / and [she’s] gasping for air,” but the second Simon says something and she “hears his name,” she will “move for him” without any second-guessing. It is distressing to watch her talk about the immense control she has that all she “gotta say is stop” to Simon, but if that were the truth, why would she only do something if “her baby says so?” As is very common in people who feel isolated, she self-sabotages (something I am especially guilty of) and further pushes everyone away singing she “don’t wanna talk about it right now” and wants to “keep [her] visions” to herself. “She got a friend you’ll never see” but “he loves” her. But does he really? All Simon and society seem to be after is more of those fake smiles and fancy tricks and not anything true to Allie X. She is a “princess” to them, but clearly not to herself, because she is unhappy with who she has become and does not really know how to fix it. If you are ever feeling isolated and distressed, please reach out to The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Old Habits Die Hard
Wasting no time to get into the song’s message, Allie X recounts how she is not “proud” of showing up “at your door” (similar to waiting on the boulevard from “Casanova”). She feels “shame,” and unfortunately “swung back like a pendulum” instead of keeping her ground like she did in the first four tracks. In this screwed-up relationship, it wasn’t long before the “sugar turned bitter” and “the summer turned to winter,” but Allie X does not want to relinquish her old habit “still wants [their] love.” Alluding back to “Casanova” again, Allie X does not care if everyone calls her a “sinner,” because she is quite confident in her actions, no matter how unhealthy they are. It is truly fascinating to see how in a matter of mere seconds she goes from “I don’t want to give you up” to fuck it all “I want to change.” That self-awareness is back and she knows how she “justifies” running back into “their arms” and desperately wants to “correct her brain.” However, her success is questionable because she says “you can’t help who you are” which can be meant to say that you can’t ever alleviate your depression or anxiety, but that “quitter” attitude is just not true. You can and will heal from your mental illness eventually, it will not necessarily just disappear for good one day, but it will be more manageable and not completely crippling. Don’t give up on yourself. You probably know “old habits” of self-deprecation “die hard,” so why not try to combat it day-by-day by taking your medication and working on healthy self-reflective behavior? “Make a pact” to yourself and truly mean it (aka don’t do it with “fingers crossed behind your back”), because it is your own happiness and health that are on the line. And of course you might relapse on toxic behavior, but don’t let that stop you from trying. Although you may feel your mental illness is so much a part of your it is in your “muscle memory,” you have always been more than that one characteristic.
That’s so Us
Playing off the teenage vibe of “Lifted,” “That’s so Us” further develops how we are living in 2017. Often “we can’t do crowds” at concerts because of “anxiety” and we “wear black at the beach,” wanting “to take on the world together.” Around some people, we can be raw and don’t have to worry about societal drama or expectations; we see “each other naked” and see “each other cry,” and are a total “wreck together.” There is definite teen angst in the contrast between how she likes when they “annoy her daily,” but still “fucking amazes” her, and even though they “are a lot to handle,” they are getting through it. I thought the lyric mentioning how she’s a “Leo” and they’re a “Capricorn” was pretty amazing because we are all guilty of comparing signs with our friends or significant others. I think the most heartwarming lines are “Shit gets real, good and bad / But we cry ’til we laugh / Through the pain, through the fads,” because as teenagers navigating a rather complex world, we are still in it together and always will be. Here we are living, despite it all.
“Downtown” is one of the most heart-wrenching songs, discussing a love so taxing, Allie X just wants to “push a button and reset.” It describes a rather disturbing scene of unwanted and unenjoyed sex with their fingers “still up in [her] skirt” (contrasting “Vintage” where she was the one in control). Calling upon the same metaphor of “Simon Says,” here the “pieces” of this “game” are being “pushed round,” and the one piece they “had of” her tainted the “other 2 or 3” she still had, because she gave up a part of herself (her commitment and effort) to someone who wasn’t deserving and couldn’t feel whole without gaining it back. Like the message of “Old Habits Die Hard,” this worn-out “ritual” of giving and giving to someone who doesn’t return the love needs to be “broken,” and “till then [she’ll] be [stuck] saying the same thing.” While this relationship used to be “downtown” and romantic like a city escape, it is now hopelessly unrequited. Allie X is struggling to remove herself because they “got [her] figured out,” and there’s “no prescription to forget.” She asks them to “stop [her] before it is too late” but there is an inherent flaw in asking the person who you are dependent on to help you be independent. It will be an arduous process, but the only way to stop needing them is to find her worth and happiness within herself (something we saw her do very well in “Need You”).
True Love Is Violent
“True Love Is Violent” is the most quintessential Allie X song, with an extended metaphor, heaven vs hell references, and the idea of what appears perfect never really is. It starts with the contrast of the “hungry currents sucking at your feet” below the “serene surface of the water,” and continues to describe a boat on that water that is “battered and bruised” instead of being pristine. Of course, the boat tried to hold on and “tossed til we capsized,” but it just wasn’t enough. However, when they “say it’s the last time,” but they “know the truth” it can be a good thing that they won’t give up when weathered, or also a bad thing that they cannot escape going back to their old habits. After all, life could be so easy and “heaven could have fallen” so that we would be “swarmed with angels,” however that’s just not reality. Instead, “hell is ours to face” and our fairytale “true love is violent.” It’s funny how we can be “drowning in body, mind, and thoughts,” but our “mouths can still be dry,” and how the paradox is that we have to “pollute to purify” and destroy everything so that we see who stays. It’s sad but sometimes true that we “don’t know what’s right until it’s wrong.” It is only “after the storm” and “after the rain” that we can be “born again” (reminiscent of Odysseus being reborn in the ashes). The true message is that sometimes destruction isn’t the worst thin; like the Lily of the Valley, sometimes we blossom in the dark.